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Postdoc Profile: Charles McAnany

Q&A with Stowers Postdoc Charles McAnany: "You must always start with a question; everything else flows from that."

13 September 2023

What is your current research focus and why?
I want to understand the language of DNA. Ultimately, everything in an organism is determined by its DNA sequence, but we know very little about how the 'words' in DNA are interpreted by cellular machinery. I'm discovering which 'words' in the DNA are read out by the cell in order to determine how the DNA should be packaged in the nucleus.

Growing up, what career did you want to pursue?
I was sure I would be a chemical engineer. My dad was a mechanical engineer, and I loved making messes in the kitchen. After one week as a chemical engineer in college, I decided I didn't want to specify pumps for a living, and so I became a chemist.

When and how did you become interested in a career in science?
In ninth grade biology, we did an experiment where we burned steel wool, and measured how much heavier it got. When I saw the conservation of mass in action like that, I was hooked.

What made you decide to join the Zeitlinger lab at the Stowers Institute?
I had finished my Ph.D. studying molecular dynamics of protein-nucleic acid complexes, and Julia had an opening for a postdoc to study the dynamics of the early steps of DNA transcription. On top of that, this job also mixed in one of my other hobbies: machine learning. How could I not apply?

Charles' camera has traveled with him across the United States, France, and Germany. This particular photo was taken in Berlin.

What is your favorite non-research related memory at the Stowers Institute so far?
The Stowers Creative Club has given me lots of opportunities to explore my scientific work from an artistic perspective. The stimulating discussions and very cool artwork are always a highlight of my month.

What is your favorite thing to do in Kansas City?
Being an amateur photographer, I love any opportunity to haul out my large-format camera and take some photos.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I'd like to be teaching chemistry and computer science at a primarily undergraduate university.

What advice do you have for other people curious about a career in science?
You must always start with a question; everything else flows from that.

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